NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Vanderbilt women’s basketball will be leaving the city of Nashville for the first time this season.
“It will be our first true test of creating our own energy,” Vanderbilt head coach Stephanie White said. “It’ll be different for our freshmen. When we truly go on the road in the Bahamas it’ll be a learning experience for them.”
Through six games, the Commodores (5-1) haven’t played outside of Music City as of yet. Even Monday’s 106-55 win over Tennessee State came at TSU’s Gentry Complex less than four miles from the Vanderbilt campus.
Vandy has used its home-court advantage to race out to a 5-1 start with the lone loss coming to No. 4-ranked and undefeated Connecticut.
Now the challenges get tougher starting this week with the Junkanoo Jam in Bimini in the Bahamas. Vanderbilt opens play at 2 p.m. Thursday against Rutgers (4-1), a perennial NCAA Tournament team.
Depending on the result of that contest, the Commodores will either face Seton Hall (4-2) or Georgia Tech (4-0) on either Friday or Saturday.
White’s team will head to the islands with plenty of momentum after Monday’s 51-point win. Once again the Dores relied on defense to get the job done, holding Tennessee State to 30.3 percent shooting and forcing 16 turnovers.
Vandy goes into the weekend ranked 40th in scoring defense having allowed 54.5 points per game and 30th with 64 steals.
“We’ve established that we can rely on our defense. We have a lot of confidence in our defense,” White said. “We have a lot of trust in one another on the defensive end of the floor.”
Brinae Alexander (15.2 ppg) and Mariella Fasoula (15 jpg) have become an inside-outside punch for Vandy on the offensive end. Fasoula is also grabbing 6.7 rebounds per game while Alexander has sunk 11 3s in the first six games.
Freshman Koi Love, who nearly had a triple-double Monday at TSU, and senior LeaLea Carter are each chipping in 10 points per game in what has become a balanced scoring attack for the Commodores. Sophomore guard Jordyn Cambridge has racked up 23 steals and junior forward Autumn Newby has brought down 50 boards.
Now Vandy hopes to continue to put up those types of numbers while on international soil against stiff competition.
“I think we knew for the first time we had, at least, SEC bodies – length and athleticism,” White said. “When you’re really trying to instill a defensive mindset, especially with so many freshmen, because in high school you don’t really know how to play defense. But we spent a lot of time over the summer working on it. We saw that we had the potential to be a great defensive team.
“Now we still have a lot of gaps, but we make up for it because we continue with multiple levels of effort and because we have that length and athleticism. And we have some players that have really good instincts.”